Conference Countdown: No. 7 Pac-10

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Pre-season Awards

Player of the Year: Klay Thompson, Washington State

Thompson
started the 2009-2010 on a torrid streak, averaging 25.6 ppg over his
first 13 games. A volume shooter in just about every definition of the
word, Thompson’s game is based around his excellent shooting range (ask San Diego).
The rest of his game has developed — he’s a better shooter off the
dribble, he showed improvement getting to the rim and getting to the
line — but as good as Thompson was during the first few months of the
season, he struggled quite a bit in Pac-10 play. As the focal point of
every defensive scheme, Thompson struggled to get to the foul line at
the same rate and started forcing tougher and tougher shots. As he gets
stronger and continues to develop his offensive repertoire, there is
reason to believe that Thompson will be able to handle the defensive
focus this season. And as Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto continue to
improve around him, don’t be surprised if he gets easier opportunities.

And a close second goes to: Isaiah Thomas, Washington

Thomas
is a dynamo. At just 5’9″, the lefty is a terror to keep out of the
paint. More of a natural scorer than a natural point, Thomas is strong
enough to bully his way to the rim against bigger opponents and
athletic enough to finish when he gets there. He’s a streaky shooter,
but when he is on he’s as dangerous a scorer as you will find on the
West Coast. Thomas, and the Huskies, were considered major
disappointments last February, as Washington was struggling to remain
above .500 in a very weak Pac-10. But Thomas played great basketball
down the stretch, improving his shot selection, limiting his turnovers,
and becoming more of a leader than just a scorer. Washington fans hope
that carries over into this season.

Breakout Star: Malcolm Lee, UCLA

There
are a few guys I liked in this spot — Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Nikola
Vucevic, and Reggie Moore, to be specific — but I think Lee is hands
down the most talented of that group. It also means that his first two
seasons have been quite a disappointment. Lee is talented, there is no
question about that. He’s 6’5″, he is athletic with an awesome first
step, and he is quick-learner — he spent much of last season playing
the role of point guard as Jerime Anderson continued to struggle. There
are some things Lee certainly needs to work on — his jumper has been
lacking, as well as his shot selection (when you shoot 25% from three,
you shouldn’t be taking a third of your shots from beyond the arc), and
he could use some strength on his frame — but this kid was predicted
as a first rounder before last season. If the Bruins can find some
stability at the point and Lee can slide into his more natural spot off
the ball, he could make a big leap this season.

All-Conference First Team:

  • POY – Klay Thompson, Washington State, Jr.
  • G – Isaiah Thomas, Washington, Jr.
  • G – Malcolm Lee, UCLA, Jr.
  • G – Reggie Moore, Washington State, So.
  • F – Nikola Vucevic, USC, Jr.
  • F – Derrick Williams, Arizona, So.

All-Conference Second Team:

  • G – Jeremy Green, Stanford, Jr.
  • G – Ty Abbott, Arizona State, Sr.
  • G – Allen Crabbe, Cal, Fr.
  • F – Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington, Sr.
  • F – DeAngelo Casto, Washington State, Sr.

Freshman of the Year: Allen Crabbe, Cal

The
past two seasons, Cal has been one of the most fun programs in the
country to watch simply because of the outstanding talent they had in
their back court — Patrick Christopher, Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson.
But with those three graduating, the Golden Bears are going to have to
rely on freshmen to pick up the slack. The best of the bunch in Crabbe,
a 6’6″ shooter that was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in
California last season. Known primarily as a jump-shooter, the rest of
his game really started to develop during his senior season. And with
the underrated Gary Franklin running the show, Crabbe should be plenty
of good looks this year.

All-Freshman Team:

  • G – Gary Franklin, Cal
  • G – Kaela King, Arizona State
  • G – Terrence Ross, Washington
  • G – Roberto Nelson, Oregon State
  • F – Josh Smith, UCLA

What Happened?:

  • Expansion:
    This will be the final season of the Pac-10. While the conference
    didn’t quite get the 16 teams they wanted by swallowing up the majority
    of the Big XII, the league did manage to add Utah and Colorado to their
    mix.
  • Oregonian Drama: The Ducks pretty thoroughly embarrassed themselves
    as they chased the like of Brad Stevens and Tom Izzo and Mike Anderson
    and, well, pretty much any coach that you can name. Eventually, they
    landed Dana Altman from Creighton, which, all in all, is a pretty good
    hire.

    That wasn’t it. Terrence Jones originally committed to the Washington Huskies in a press-conference with high school teammate Terrence Ross. But he eventually went back on that commitment and is now at Kentucky. He wasn’t the only player to waffle on Washington. Enes Kanter did as well,
    and he ended up at Kentucky too. Oh, and 2011 recruit Tony Wroten seems
    to be down Kentucky and Washington, amongst others. Anyone else think
    the potential matchup between Kentucky and Washington in Maui will be fun?

  • You gotta feel for this kid: Stanford’s Andy Brown.
    He missed his senior year in high school, he redshirted last season,
    and he is going to miss this season. All because he tore his left acl three times.
  • Arizona State has an eventful offseason: Rihard Kuksiks nearly left school. Kyle Cain originally signed with Rhode Island, but after he was let out of his LOI by URI, he ended up in Tempe. Carrick Felix, a JuCo transfer, originally committed to Duke, but then went back on that and he, too, is at Arizona State. Then there is Demetrius Walker (remember him?) who is now headed to New Mexico.
  • More UCLA turnover:
    Transfers galore into and out of Westwood. J’Mison Morgan is headed to
    Baylor, Mike Moser is off to UNLV, and Drew Gordon bounced to New
    Mexico. But Ben Howland also brings in some transfers. David and Travis
    Wear, the twins from UNC, will both be eligible next season, and
    Lazeric Jones in a JuCo player brought in to help shore up the Bruin’s
    back court problems. And Ben Howland brought in Matt Carlino a year
    before he graduated high school.

What’s next?:

  • Expansion:
    Utah will be joining the league next season, and Colorado will be
    coming on in 2012. The question is now how will the conference be
    divided up. It seems reasonable to assume that the league is going to
    go to two divisions — they want that football title game and all. But
    every school wants to be in the same division as USC and UCLA. Its
    quite the recruiting advantage to be able to play in Southern
    California every season.
  • Unpredictability: There is so much youth (there are 17 seniors in the conference. 17!!!!),
    so much turnover, and so much mediocrity in the Pac-10 this season that
    predicting this league after Washington at the top is nothing more than
    a crap shoot. While there may not be a ton of NCAA Tournament teams and
    lottery picks coming out of this Pac-10, what we can count on is
    entertaining basketball games and a wild conference championship race.
    The Pac-10 is going to be fun to follow this year.
  • Roberto Nelson: Nelson was Craig Robinson’s star recruit in the class of 2009, but he was never able to get academically eligible.
    Well, Nelson will be allowed to play this season. Can he help turn
    around the Beaver program? Nelson was also featured prominently in
    George Dohrmann’s book Play Their Hearts Out.
  • Who is that team in green?: I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t recognize the Oregon basketball team next season. New head coach. Four transfers. And a new court. Need I mention the Michael Dunigan mess?

Power Rankings:

  1. Washington:
    The Huskies lose Quincy Pondexter, who was the only first rounder to
    come from the Pac-10 last season. But even with that loss, U-Dub is
    essentially the only program in the conference that could be considered
    to be doing well. After a Sweet 16 trip last season, Lorenzo Romar
    returns everyone of consequence save Pondexter. The diminutive Isaiah
    Thomas will be back for his junior campaign to lead the Huskies back
    court. Thomas is a big-time scorer and playmaker and will be
    complimented very well by Venoy Overton, who is probably the best
    defender in the conference. Also expect big things from Abdul Gaddy,
    the second-rated point guard in the class of 2009 (behind John Wall)
    that struggled at times as a 17 year old freshman. Also joining them in
    the back court will be freshman Terrence Ross, a 6’5″ shooting guard
    that should be able to contribute immediately, and 6’6″ wing Justin
    Holiday (Jrue’s older brother), a lanky and athletic small forward. Up
    front, this team certainly has the talent, the question is whether that
    group ever reaches that level. Matthew Bryan-Amaning is a 6’9″ power
    forward with length and athleticism that will be counted on to replace
    some of Pondexter’s scoring and boards. Behind him, Darnell Gant and
    Desmond Simmons will be asked to play more predominant roles, while
    JuCo transfer Aziz N’Diaye will a shot-blocking presence, and very well
    could end up in the starting lineup. The front court depth took a hit
    when Tyreese Breshers retired due to injuries. Washington right now is
    the hands-down favorite to win the Pac-10. If they don’t, they have
    only themselves to blame.
  2. Arizona: In
    a wide open Pac-10, the Wildcats certainly have the talent necessary to
    make a run at the league title even with the loss of Nic Wise. The
    problem is that the majority of that talent is going to be freshmen and
    sophomores. Derrick Williams should be one of the best sophomores in
    the country, and will be even more productive as his post game
    develops. Senior Jamelle Horne isn’t the brightest,
    but he does have some talent and his ability to spread the floor will
    help create space for Williams inside. Solomon Hill, Kryrl Natyazhko,
    and Kevin Parrom are all sophomores, and their development this season
    will go a long way towards determining how good Arizona will be this
    season. Perhaps the most pressure, however, is going to fall on Lamont
    “MoMo” Jones. Arizona is known as Point Guard U for good reason, and
    MoMo is the one that will be taking the reins this season. MoMo showed
    some promise as a scorer last season, but he will be counted on to be a
    leader and a distributor this year. Joining him in the back court will
    be junior Kyle Fogg, who has proven to be a solid scorer and shooter,
    along with junior Brandon Lavender and freshmen Daniel Bejarano and
    Jordin Mayes. The Pac-10 is difficult to predict, Arizona even more so
    with their youth. This team could put it all together and make a run to
    the league title, or they could suffer from inexperience and finish
    below .500 in the league. Neither would surprise me, but the former
    seems much more likely than the latter.
  3. UCLA:
    Last season, UCLA finished below .500 overall and in Pac-10 play. And
    while they lost Michael Roll, Nikola Dragovic, and James Keefe as well
    as Mike Moser, J’Mison Morgan, and Drew Gordon to transfer, there is
    reason to believe that UCLA can have more success this season. For
    starters, there is Malcolm Lee. Lee has yet to live up to the hype he
    had coming into the program, but if he can iron out some of the
    inconsistencies he had last season, there’s hope that he can eventually
    fulfill that potential as a junior. Jerime Anderson is back at the
    point, although he has never lived up to his hype, either. Lazeric
    Jones, a JuCo transfer, was brought in to compete with Anderson for
    minutes and, potentially, a starting spot. Joining them in the back
    court will be freshmen Tyler Lamb and Matt Carlino. The biggest issue
    will be up front, as most of the Bruin big men have left the program or
    will be sitting this season out. Sophomore Reeves Nelson looks primed
    for a big bump this season. The tough, physical Nelson plays power
    forward like a football player and once he adds some post moves to his
    repertoire, he could be a dangerous player in the conference. Joining
    him up front is Tyler Honeycutt, who is more of a perimeter player than
    a front court player, and Josh Smith, a 6’10” behemoth. At one point,
    he reportedly weighed over 300 pounds, but the latest on Smith is that
    he is much better shape. Depth, inexperience, and a lack of size will
    likely be issues, but there is talent on this roster. Who develops —
    and how much they develop — will determine how good this team ends up
    being.
  4. Washington State:
    The Cougars lost six players to transfer, but only one — Xavier Thames
    — played any kind of significant minutes. The Cougars also lost
    starter Nikola Koprivica to graduation, but beyond that they return
    four of their top five scorers. Klay Thompson is the best returning
    player in the conference, a scorer that has developed a solid offensive
    arsenal based around his dangerous jumper. He can score points in a
    hurry. Reggie Moore had a very productive freshman campaign at the
    point, and DeAngelo Casto is one of the better big men in the Pac-10.
    Those three combined form arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the league.
    The problem is there is not much depth on this team. They really only
    went seven deep a season ago, and with two of those seven gone, Bone
    did not bring in much of anything in the recruiting trail. Marcus
    Capers and Brock Motum will both see time, likely as starters. If Bone
    can develop a bench for this group, they have a shot at making an NCAA
    Tournament run.
  5. California:
    The Golden Bears are essentially in complete rebuilding mode. Their top
    four scorers — essentially their only four scorers — from last season
    all graduated, and sixth man Omondi Amoke was booted from the program.
    The leading returning scorer is Jorge Gutierrez, a scrappy, 6’4″
    off-guard known more for his defense than anything. That said,
    Gutierrez was a solid play maker and shooter the last two seasons
    playing a supporting role, meaning he may be able to elevate his game.
    He likely will need to, as the rest of the Cal back court looks to be
    freshmen. Allen Crabbe is a shooter and the reigning Gatorade
    California player of the year and Gary Franklin seems poised to take
    over the point guard role, while fellow freshmen Emerson Murray and
    Alex Rossi, along with sophomore Brandon Smith, will contribute
    minutes. The front court will be more experienced. Markhuri
    Sanders-Frisson returns, as does Harper Kamp, who get redshirted last
    season with an injury. Sophomore Bak Bak will provide depth for the
    Bears up front, and don’t be surprised is freshman Richard Soloman sees
    minutes with 7’3″ Max Zhang leaving to play professionally in China.
    Mike Montgomery knows what he is going to get out of his front court —
    size, toughness, experience, leadership. The question mark is the back
    court. How good Gutierrez, Crabbe, and Franklin are will likely
    determine how good Cal ends up being.
  6. Arizona State:
    The Sun Devils lost quite a bit this season. Derek Glasser, Eric
    Boateng, and Jerren Shipp all graduated. Victor Rudd, Demetrius Walker,
    and Tyler Rohde all transferred. That said, Herb Sendek still has some
    talent on his roster. He caught a break whenRihard Kuksiks decided not
    to turn pro in his native Latvia. Ty Abbott is a senior and has
    developed into a more-than-capable scorer on the wing. Jamelle
    McMillan, the son of Nate McMillan, should be fine stepping into the
    point guard void left by Glasser. Trent Lockett showed flashes of being
    a big time player as a freshman. That’s a solid returning back court,
    and we haven’t even gotten to the talent that Herb Sendek brings in
    this year. Keala King is the most highly rated recruit, a 6’5″ guard
    with a nice, all-around offensive arsenal that should see minutes
    immediately even if Kuksiks is back. Brandon Dunson and Corey Hawkins
    should also compete for minutes in the back court. The bigger issue
    will be up front. Ruslan Pateev is a 6’11” sophomore that didn’t get
    many minutes as a freshman. 7’2″ Jordan Bachynski also joins the fray.
    The more interesting prospects, however, are Kyle Cain and Carrick
    Felix. Both are relatively small, but Felix is a dynamic athlete that
    originally committed to Duke and Cain, a bit bigger, will provide some
    toughness and strength inside. If Sendek somehow develops his front
    court, the Sun Devils have a shot at a tournament berth.
  7. USC:
    The Trojans likely wish that this season was the one they would face
    the postseason ban, not last season. But as we all know, USC AD Mike
    Garrett tried to save Trojan football by throwing Trojan hoops under
    the bus, which is a shame because USC was poised to surprise quite a
    few people. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some pieces on this roster.
    Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic both return, giving the Trojans one
    of the better front lines in the Pac-10. And while the Trojans do lose
    Mike Gerrity, they bring in Fordham transfer Jio Fontan, who will
    become eligible in December. Beyond that, however, the question marks
    begin. How will Donte Smith, Marcus Simmons, and Evan Smith handle
    expanded roles this year? Will USC’s recruiting class — headlined by
    four-star shooting guard Bryce Jones — be able to contribute
    immediately? Because if the Trojans want to have a chance at being
    relevant this season, they will need more than just Stephenson,
    Vucevic, and Fontan.
  8. Oregon State:
    Once again, Craig Robinson is going to have a rough go of it in
    Corvallis. Gone is the talented Roeland Schaftenaar and both of the
    Tarver brothers, meaning that the Beaver’s Princeton-style offense will
    be based around the talents of senior guard Calvin Haynes. Joining
    Haynes in the back court will, in all-likelihood, be redshirt freshman
    Roberto Nelson, Robinson’s prized recruit in the class of 2009 that
    couldn’t get eligible, senior Lathan Wallace, and sophomore Jared
    Cunningham. Also don’t be surprised if Chicago native Ahmad Sparks, a
    5’8″ freshman point guard, sees time as well. Up front, Joe Burton,
    Omari Johnson, and Daniel Deane all return, but the real star in the
    front court could very well end up being Devon Collier. A product of
    Bob Hurley and the famed St. Anthony’s program, Collier was a pretty
    heavily recruited prospect. Freshmen Eric Moreland and Chris Brown
    should also compete for time. the Beavers will once again have a tough,
    competitive team, but they lack the talent to be a real threat in this
    league.
  9. Stanford:
    The Cardinal finished second to last in the Pac-10 last season, and
    they will head into this season without their star Landry Fields, who
    is now a New York Knick. They do return Jeremy Green, the only other
    player on the roster to average double figures. Green is a 6’4″ guard
    known mostly for his ability as a spot-up shooter. Joining Green in the
    back court will be Jarrett Mann, a 6’3″ junior that led the team in
    assists as well as turnovers. Jack Trotter and Andrew Zimmermann both
    return up front, but beyond that, Stanford’s rotation will essentially
    be made up of freshmen — there are eight on the roster total, not
    including the injury-riddled Andy Brown. Dwight Powell is a five-star,
    6’10” center, and Anthony Brown is a top 100 two guard that should
    contribute immediately. Johnny Dawkins is showing promise on the
    recruiting trail, but he still has a while to go until this Stanford
    team will be competitive.
  10. Oregon:
    Good luck recognizing the Ducks next season. Ernie Kent is gone,
    replaced by Dana Altman. Mac Court will soon be gone. Leading scorer
    TaJuan Porter is gone to graduation. Jamil Wilson, Matthew Humphrey, Drew Wiley and Josh Crittle
    all decided to transfer, and Malcolm Armstead very nearly did as well.
    Michael Dunigan left the program amidst a potential scandel to sign
    with a professional team in Israel. Oregon is in trouble this year.
    Armstead is their leading returning scorer and creator, but he is
    really the only threat they have. Joevan Catron returns after receiving
    a medical redshirt, while LeKendric Longmire, Jeremy Jacob, Teondre
    Williams, EJ Singler, and Garrett Sim round out the returning rotation.
    A run to the top half of the league would be an impressive feat for
    Altman.

Preseason No. 1 North Carolina drops out of AP Top 25

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston and Texas remain firmly entrenched atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, while preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out entirely after a fourth straight loss.

The Cougars earned 37 of 62 first-place votes in the poll, extending the program’s first stay at No. 1 since the “Phi Slama Jama” days in the 1980s for another week. Houston (8-0) beat Norfolk State and Saint Mary’s in its first week at the top.

“I don’t dwell on it,” coach Kelvin Sampson said last week about the No. 1 ranking. “We’re not running around here pushing our chest out, thinking we’re something we’re not.”

The Longhorns received 14 first-place votes. No. 3 Virginia got three votes and No. 4 Purdue got the remaining eight.

Connecticut (9-0) climbed to No. 5, the program’s highest ranking since early in the 2011-12 season. Other than the top five, there are three other teams in the AP Top 25 that are undefeated (No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Mississippi State).

SWIFT FALL

North Carolina is only the sixth team to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked since at least the 1961-62 season, most recently with Michigan State during the 2019-20 season.

Of that group, the Tar Heels had the swiftest exit from the poll to start the season (four weeks) excet for UCLA in 1965-66. The Bruins fell out of the poll after just three weeks back when only 10 teams were ranked.

Ranked No. 18 last week, the Tar Heels (5-4) l ost their fourth straight game over the weekend at Virginia Tech while playing without banged-up big man Armando Bacot. They appeared on a single ballot this week from the 62-member panel that votes on the AP Top 25.

“I told them also that I’m not panicked, I’m not any of that,” coach Hubert Davis said afterward. “I’m convinced we’re going to be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

Last year’s Tar Heels were on the bubble to even make the NCAA Tournament well into February in Davis’ debut season. They went on a final-month tear all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Kansas.

THE TOP TIER

Kansas climbed to No. 6, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, it marked their first appearances inside the top 10 this year. Arizona rounded out the top 10, falling six spots after a loss at Utah.

RISING

No. 13 Maryland had the biggest jump of the week, vaulting nine spots after wins against Louisville and Illinois last week in the Terrapins’ first year under Kevin Willard. That marks the program’s highest ranking since pushing into the top 10 during the 2019-20 season.

Tennessee was next up with a six-spot climb, while No. 11 Auburn rose four spots.

In all, 13 teams climbed from last week.

SLIDING

Creighton had the week’s biggest fall, tumbling 14 spots to No. 21 after losing at Texas and at home to Nebraska last week.

No. 12 Baylor fell six spots after a loss to Marquette, though the Bears responded by beating Gonzaga on Friday in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA championship game won by Baylor.

The Zags, now No. 18, fell four spots to their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 20 on Christmas Day in 2017.

In all, four teams slid from last week.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top three, No. 25 Ohio State remained in place after a tough loss at No. 15 Duke last week.

WELCOME

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 TCU were the new additions to the poll, with the Bulldogs (8-0) earning their first AP Top 25 ranking under first-year coach Chris Jans since January 2019.

The Horned Frogs were ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first two polls before falling out for two weeks.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

In addition to UNC, Michigan State (No. 20) fell out after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, including No. 16 Kentucky. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had five ranked teams, followed by two each for the Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.

The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences each had one.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer tops women’s AP Top 25 appearances

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer stands atop The Associated Press women’s basketball poll with the most appearances all time, breaking a tie with the late Pat Summitt.

VanDerveer’s Cardinal remained No. 2 behind top-ranked South Carolina, giving her 619 weeks with one of her teams in the AP Top 25: 592 weeks with Stanford and 27 with Ohio State when she was in charge of that program. Summitt’s 618 weeks in the poll all came with Tennessee.

The Hall of Fame coach downplayed the achievement.

“Fortunate to be here for 36 years. We have great players and have been successful,” VanDerveer said. “I don’t pay attention to (records). People bring it up and I’m like `OK, great.”‘

Louisville fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2016, a span of 127 weeks. That was the fifth longest active streak. The Cardinals (5-4) started the season ranked seventh and have struggled to find consistency this year, dropping their last two games to Ohio State and Middle Tennessee.

They are the third preseason top 10 team to fall out of the poll, joining Texas (this week) and Tennessee (last week). Before this year, only 10 preseason top 10 teams had fallen out of the rankings at some point during the year since the AP Top 25 became a writers’ poll in 1994-95.

Even more rare has been a preseason top five school dropping out. Only five teams had done that prior to this year and none before January. Tennessee was the last to do it, starting the 2015-16 season at No. 4 before falling out of the rankings Feb. 22.

Now Texas and Tennessee are both out before the New Year.

“Two factors are at play here. One of them is more parity with more good teams,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn star, ESPN analyst and Top 25 voter. “The other factor at play is the transfer portal. I think those three teams all have multiple players who start who weren’t in their program a year ago. It’s a reflection that you can’t just assemble teams and right away expect them to be good. I think all those teams will in the poll by the end of the season.”

Ohio State moved up to No. 3 after, the Buckeyes’ best ranking since Nov. 30, 2009, when they also were third. Indiana and Notre Dame round out the top five.

UConn fell three spots to sixth with Virginia Tech seventh, the best ranking ever for the school. North Carolina and N.C. State were tied in eighth and Iowa State is 10th.

RANKED RAZORBACKS

Arkansas (10-0) vaulted into the poll at No. 21. The Razorbacks have a difficult month ahead with games against No. 18 Creighton and a tournament in San Diego that has Oregon, South Florida and Ohio State.

“I do think we know a lot about our team,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said.

He was also happy his team made the poll as every sports team on campus that has played this year has been ranked, including football, men’s basketball, soccer and cross country.

“We didn’t want to be the team that stops that streak,” he said..

FALLING LOUISVILLE

The Cardinals had been ranked ever week since Jan. 11, 2016. That was the same season they started the year at No. 8 before falling out on Nov. 30, the earliest a top 10 team had fallen out of the poll until last week. Things got better for Louisville as the Cardinals finished that regular season 24-6 and went 15-1 in the ACC.

HISTORIC WEEK

With Louisville, Texas and Tennessee all out of the Top 25, it marks only the second time in the poll’s history that none of those three teams were ranked. The only other time was the first-ever poll in 1976.

COMING AND GOING

Oklahoma and Kansas State also returned to the Top 25 this week, coming in at No. 23 and No. 24. Marquette dropped out after losing to Seton Hall.

Northwestern beats No. 20 Michigan State in Big Ten opener

Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Boo Buie scored 20 points and Northwestern beat No. 20 Michigan State 70-63 on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Chase Audige added 15 points and Ty Berry had 13 for Northwestern (6-2), which ended a two-game losing streak.

“Needless to say, this was a huge win for us,” coach Chris Collins said. “Coming off our performance in the ACC-Big Ten challenge, where we lost badly on our home floor (to Pittsburgh), I was really pleased with our resolve the past couple days.”

Mady Sossoko and A.J. Hoggard each had 12 points for Michigan State (5-4) and Joey Hauser added 10. The Spartans have lost two in a row, falling to Notre Dame earlier in the week.

Hoggard cut Northwestern’s lead to 64-63 with 46 seconds left. After a timeout, Buie scored on a layup with 23 seconds left.

“We got out-toughed,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Northwestern took the lead late in the first half on a layup by Buie and never relinquished it, leading by as many as nine points.

“We put (the loss to Pittsburgh) under the rug,” Buie said. “We turned the page, just like we do with any win or loss. The season is so long you can’t get caught up on one single game. Just like tonight. We’re super happy with the win, but after tonight it’s over. You can’t dwell on things.”

The Wildcats went 21 of 24 on free throws, while the Spartans were 9 of 12.

“I was concerned about a knockout punch early,” Collins said. ‘I knew they would be revved up after the Notre Dame loss. They hit us early and got a seven-point lead, and then we settled down.”

UP NEXT

Northwestern: Hosts Prairie View A&M on Dec. 11

Michigan State: At Penn State on Wednesday night.

Miles, No. 7 Notre Dame women beat No. 3 UConn; Fudd hurt

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Olivia Miles had 21 points and eight rebounds for No. 7 Notre Dame, and UConn star Azzi Fudd suffered a knee injury in a collision with a teammate, as the Fighting Irish handed the third-ranked Huskies their first loss of the season, 74-60 on Sunday.

“I think she’ll be all right,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterwards of Fudd, who went into the day averaging 24.0 points, but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes.

Fudd exited in the final minute of the first quarter after teammate Aaliyah Edwards fell on her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way as a precaution, according to Auriemma.

Maddy Westbeld had a season-high 17 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame (7-1), which bounced back from a 74-72 loss to No. 20 Maryland three days earlier.

“I think Thursday’s loss really fueled us today,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “We learned a lot from that game. We have incredible scorers on our team, a lot of balance offensively, but it’s our defense that’s gonna win games, so that was our focus the last 48 hours. (The players) took the challenge and came out and played with heart and defensive intensity. I feel like if we can play that way, we can beat anyone in the country.”

Notre Dame shot 56% from the field while limiting the Huskies to 37%.

“We played very badly (Thursday), but we were still two points away,” Miles said, “so it’s kind of scary what we can do when we play really well.”

Led by Miles, the Irish roared to a 41-24 lead by intermission, outscoring the Huskies 30-11 over the final 11 minutes of the first half.

Miles scored 13 of Notre Dame’s 18 first-quarter points, going 6 of 7 from the field. Westbeld provided her scoring punch after averaging 5.2 points over her previous five outings.

Lou Lopez Senechal led UConn (6-1) with 21 points. Edwards added 14.

“We didn’t win the rebound battle and that hurt us,” said Auriemma, whose club was outboarded 39-26 and outscored in the paint. 46-16. “We just didn’t have enough scoring on the court and enough people playing at a real high level to get enough buckets when we needed them.”

The Huskies got as close at 49-44 at the 3:44 mark of the third quarter, but the Irish stretched their lead back to as high as 70-53 at the midway mark of the fourth period.

Notre Dame ended a seven-game head-to-head losing streak against UConn in regular-season play, prevailing for the first time since a triple-overtime decision in March 2013.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies faced a top-10 opponent for the fourth time this season, but this one was their first true road game. If Fudd’s injury doesn’t turn out to be serious, UConn ought to still have a chance to do what it’s done for decades: craft a resume that will make them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame: The Irish, coming back from that loss at the buzzer to Maryland, showed that Thursday’s outcome may just be a blip on their promising season. Notre Dame matched last season’s win over No. 3 North Carolina State for the highest-ranked team it has beaten in its third year under Ivey.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies host Princeton on Thursday before visiting Maryland next Sunday.

Notre Dame: The Irish have a couple apparent mismatches coming up as they visit Lafayette (2-7) on Thursday and host Merrimack (1-6) on Saturday.

Brink leads No. 2 Stanford women over No. 23 Gonzaga 84-63

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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STANFORD, Calif. – Gonzaga may be rolling out an injury-depleted roster, but the Bulldogs nevertheless left a lasting impression on their West Coast rival in Stanford.

And that leads the Cardinal to wonder if the two power programs might meet again on college basketball’s biggest stage come March.

“This is a team that is a Top-25 team,” Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I think if we can do it, they’re going to be in Seattle (for the NCAA Tournament).”

Cameron Brink had 14 points and a season-high 16 rebounds and Brooke Demetre made a career-high five 3s and scored 17 points, leading second-ranked Stanford past No. 23 Gonzaga 84-63 on Sunday.

The Cardinal (10-1) have now won five straight games after falling to top-ranked South Carolina in overtime on Nov. 20.

“I kind of call Brooke my secret weapon,” VanDerveer said. “She is a really special young lady, and when you have both Cam out there and Brooke, it’s a two-headed monster.”

“She has one of the highest releases I’ve ever seen, one of the quickest releases,” Brink said of Demetre. “She can shoot it, and we’ve always had confidence in her.”

Hannah Jump hit four 3s and scored 14 points, and Haley Jones had 12 points for Stanford.

Short-handed Gonzaga (7-2), limited to seven players because of illness and injuries, had won three in a row.

The Zags kept the pressure on Stanford early in the game, thanks to a 20-point first half from Kaylynne Truong.

Truong shot 4 of 9 from deep and finished with a career-high 22 points.

Brynna Maxwell contributed 19 points. Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga’s leading scorer, was held to two points in the first three quarters but added six points in the fourth.

“We try to focus on a leading scorer and try to limit them,” VanDerveer said. “But you can’t just focus on (Ejim) because they’ve got Truong, they’ve got Maxwell. . I think we did a much better job (on defense) in the second half.”

STAT OF THE GAME

The Cardinal were able to pull away due to a strong game from beyond the arc, making 15 3-pointers on 15 of 28 (53.6%) shooting. A season-high eight different Stanford players made a 3, led by Demetre’s five and Jump’s four.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: Lost its fourth straight in the series with Stanford and dropped to 1-7 on the Cardinal’s home floor. The Zags haven’t won any matchups since a 79-73 victory at home on Dec. 2, 2018. … Despite playing short-handed, Gonzaga did not yield an easy win to its higher-ranked opponent, trailing by just one point after the first quarter before fading in the second half.

Stanford: Held a 37-23 rebounding advantage. … This win marked the beginning of a crucial stretch in the Cardinal’s season. Stanford’s next two games come against Tennessee – receiving votes in The Associated Press Top 25 poll – and No. 13 Creighton, followed by the start of Pac-12 Conference play against rival California on Dec. 23.

UP NEXT

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to McCarthey Athletic Center to start a five-game homestand, starting with a Tuesday matchup vs. Queens University of Charlotte.

Stanford: After a two-week break for final exams, the Cardinal will continue their seven-game homestand vs. Tennessee on Dec. 18.